Built for Battle: 2021 Brick Township High School Football Preview
“You win games in the trenches.”
Of all the most-used phrases in football, the axiom about how important it is to get quality play along the line of scrimmage remains unquestioned. If a team is above average along the offensive and defensive lines it changes everything.
Coming off a rare sub-.500 season, the Brick Township High School football team has plenty going for it as the Dragons look to return to championship form. The squad has a whopping 10 returning starters returning on each side of the ball, headlined by an offensive line that returns four of five starters and a defensive front seven that returns nearly all of its starters.
If games are indeed won or lost up front, Brick is well ahead of the curve. Senior Darian Newcomb will be a four-year starter when the season begins and anchors the offensive line from his spot at right tackle. He will be joined by junior Michael Pormigiano (LT), and senior returning starters AJ Ellis (LG), Vin Caldarise (C), and Jason Glass (RG), plus senior Tyson Lopez at tight end to form a formidable wall of people movers.
Brick’s offense will be a mix of its classic Delaware Wing-T offense blended with a more modern touch. Senior quarterback Ryan Panuska – the son of former Dragons star, University of Tennessee standout and current Brick athletic director Pete Panuska – will operate out of the shotgun and spearheads a veteran backfield that includes seniors Tyler Weisneck and Riley Bell at running back and seniors Mikey Schliefer, Justin Kurc, Jason Norman, and Logan Donnelly at wing back. It takes just a quick glance at the roster to see that Brick’s strength will be running the football.
A stingy and physical defense has been the calling card for Brick’s most successful teams and this season’s version is looking to operate in that same mold. The Dragon’s multiple-front defense has Newcomb and Michael Pormigiano as returning starters up front, Bell, junior Jake DeDreux and junior Colin Wilson as returning starters at middle/inside linebackers. Schliefer, Glass, and sophomores Jacob Toye and Travis Trempy are the outside linebackers.
The offensive line and defensive front jump off the page in terms of experience, but the secondary is right there with those groups. All four starters are back with Norman and Weisneck as the corners, Panuska at strong safety and Kurc as the free safety. There is depth, as well, with Donnelly as the third cornerback, junior AJ Grygiel as a strong safety and sophomore Christian Booker at free safety.
Division alignment has the Dragons in a new division but playing some of its traditional rivals, including Brick and Lacey within the Independence Division and Toms River South in a season-opening non-divisional contest.
This Dragons team isn’t filled with returning All-Shore players and big names, but that certainly isn’t a precursor to success. With experience up and down the lineup and the look of a solid, get-the-job-done team, this version of Brick football has its sights set on bring another championship to The House that Wolf Built.
At a Glance
Projected starters (RS=returning starter, 3RS=3rd-year returning starter)
Offense: Shotgun Wing-T
Returning starters: 10
QB: Ryan Panuska, Sr., RS; AJ Grygiel, Jr.
RB: Tyler Weisneck, Sr., 3RS; Riley Bell, Sr.,
Wing: Jason Norman, Sr; Logan Donnelly, Sr.
Wing: Mikey Schliefer, Sr., RS; Justin Kurc, Sr.
WR: Malachi Wright, Sr.; Logan Lungren, Jr.
TE: Tyson Lopez, JR., RS; Jacob Toye, So.; Andrew Davicsin, Jr.
LT: Michael Pormigiano, Jr.
LG: AJ Ellis, Sr., RS; Colin Wilson, Jr.
C: Vin Caldarise, Sr., RS; Brendan Kalp, Sr.
RG: Jason Glass, Sr., RS
RT: Darian Newcomb, Sr., 4RS; Will Walsh, So.
Returning starters: 10
DT: Vin Caldarise, Sr.; Jason Glass, Sr.
DT: Darian Newcomb, Sr., 4RS
DT: Michael Pormigiano, Jr., RS; AJ Ellis
MLB: Riley Bell, Sr., 3RS; Jake DeDreux, Jr., RS
MLB: Colin Wilson, Jr., RS; Jarred Valiant, Sr.
OLB: Mikey Schliefer, Sr.; Jason Glass, Sr.
OLB: Jacob Toye, So.; Travis Trempy, So.
CB: Jason Norman, Sr., RS
CB: Tyler Weisneck, Sr., 3RS; Logan Donnelly, Jr.
SS: Ryan Panuska, Sr., RS: AJ Grygiel, Jr.
FS: Justin Kurc, Sr., 3RS: Christian Booker, So.
K: Kurt Weiboldt Jr., So.
P: AJ Grygiel, Jr. or Ryan Panuska, Sr.
Kickoff specialist: Jacob Toye, So.
Head coach: Len Zdanowicz, 7th season
Career record: 36-26
Team record last five years:
Assistant coaches: Bill McDonnell (Offensive coordinator, QB/RB); Brian McNamara (Defensive Coordinator, LB); Andrew Cruz (TE); Jared Kight (OL); John Dolan (RB/WR); Al Saner (Offensive assistant); Joe Smyth (DL); Chad Dougherty (MLB); John Prato (DB); Kurt Wieboldt (Special teams, kickers); FRESHMEN: Jay Groschel (head coach/OC), Chris Blackburn (DC), Scott Karos, Dan Dornacker, Wayne Neidermier; Pete Fusco (athletic trainer).
Player to Watch: Darian Newcomb, Sr., OL/DL
When Brick trots onto Toms River South’s Detwiler Stadium to open the season on Sept. 3, Newcomb will officially be a four-year starter for one of the most tradition-rich high school football programs in New Jersey. At 6-foot-3 and 275 pounds with strength and quickness, he has the ability to dominate up front.
Player Under the Radar: Ryan Panuska, Sr., QB/SS
There are certain last names that resonate in the world of Brick football and Panuska is surely one of them. Now a senior, Ryan Panuska will direct the Dragons’ shotgun Wing-T offense and also reprise his role as the starting strong safety. His leadership abilities will be mean just as much as touchdowns and tackles.
Impact Newcomer: Jacob Toye, So., OLB/TE
The 6-foot-3, 180-pound Toye has his sights set on a starting job as an outside linebacker and is also working at tight end. Additionally, he will serve as Brick’s kickoff specialist. As the great-grandson of legendary Brick hockey coach Bob Auriemma, Toye knows all about the winning tradition at Brick.
Top Position Groups: Lines and Secondary
With a total of 20 positions on offense and defense that have significant varsity experience, you could go several different ways with this, but it’s hard to ignore what Brick has in the trenches and the defensive backfield. Four offensive lineman return plus two interior defensive linemen. The Dragons will try to use that experience to dictate the game at the point of attack. All four secondary players are also returning starters.
Big Shoes to Fill: Malachi Wright, Sr., WR and Logan Lungren, Jr., WR
Wide receiver is the only position where Brick does not have a returning starter to fill the void left by Evan Travisano, who was a second-team all-division selection as a senior last year. Wright (6-foot, 190) and Lungren (6-foot-2, 180), will be tasked with making teams honor the passing game enough to keep opponents honest.
X-Factor: Starting Strong
The Dragons open the season with two straight rivalry games on the road against Toms River South and Lacey and also face crosstown rival Brick Memorial in Week 4. Not only should those opponents present good tests on the field, but they are also games in which the players are more emotionally invested because of the rivalry factor. Early wins don’t guarantee anything, but they can absolutely set the tone for a special season.
Friday, Sept. 3 – at Toms River South, 7 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 10 – at Lacey, 6:30 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 17 – vs. Howell, 7 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 25 – at Brick Memorial, 1 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 1 – vs. Ocean, 7 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 8 – vs. Middletown North, 7 p.m.
Saturday, Oct. 16 – at Neptune, 1 p.m.